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International Seminar

posted May 31, 2010, 12:19 AM by liang shi


Dr. Lawrence D. Harder

Machiavellian flowers: power and control in plant reproduction
In general, plant reproduction involves interactions between participants with contrasting self-interests. Although such interactions are evident in sexual conflict, parent-offspring competition and sibling rivalry, they are most obvious for plants that rely on animals to disperse their pollen.  Pollinators typically visit flowers to obtain food and while serving their self-interest they coincidentally disperse pollen, which serves the plant's self-interest.  Although mutual benefit can result, it need not, and various characteristics of flowers act as evolutionary adaptations to manipulate pollinators and promote pollen dispersal.  Using examples drawn from my research during the past two decades I will interpret a variety of floral and inflorescence characteristics from this perspective.  These examples provide explanations for: why plants are so attractive; why they restrict pollen removal by individual pollinators; the high frequency of pollination by deceit in orchids, but not other angiosperms; and the size and structure of inflorescences, including the segregation of sex roles.